Keeping one step ahead of criminals is a never-ending enterprise for Paul Alamo, owner of Alamo Alarm Company in Lodi. It’s a constant game of cat and mouse.
When thieves began cutting the power to homes in the hopes of disabling security devices, Alamo installed backup batteries. When criminals tried to disable the phone connection to their dispatch center, he installed systems that use radio signals.
It’s a game of one-upsmanship that Alamo has been playing with criminals since he became involved in the private security business in the late 1970s. His goal of keeping watch over his customers has remained the same ever since.
“These are not just our customers we’re protecting, they’re our neighbors and friends,” he said.
Alamo, and his wife Sharon, started Alamo Alarm in 1982, riding the wave of alarm companies that grew to meet increasing demand from businesses for private security in the 1970s. These initial systems were large, complex and expensive, and were only aimed at large companies that were major targets for thieves. At the time, much of Alamo’s security equipment was manufactured in-house.
With changing times and rising crime rates, however, came increasing demand for residential security systems. Several national companies like Brink’s and ADT sprang up to offer low-cost security systems for homes.
Alamo followed suit and changed his business model to begin offering security systems on a smaller scale to homeowners. Now about 60 percent of the company’s business is from home security while the other 40 percent is from commercial buildings.
“By having an alarm system it gives you piece of mind,” Alamo said.
Alamo now has more than 3,400 customers from Elk Grove to Modesto, according to General Manager Dennis Lobenberg.
He said that Alamo has tried to maintain an edge over competition from nation-wide security companies by offering higher quality installment of security systems. For example, Alamo hard-wires and solders all of its security connections rather than using wireless systems that can be jammed by tech-savvy criminals hoping to thwart the system, according to Lobenberg.
“Thieves are becoming more resourceful,” he said.
The company employs infrared motion detectors that are specially designed to only trigger an alarm if a person walks in front of them and not the family pet. Windows and doors are fitted with sensors that will alert police if they are broken or have been tampered with.
Keeping a watchful eye on the thousands of sensors and alarms is Alamo’s dispatch center in Lodi, which operates around the clock. Dispatchers will notify property owners and police if an alarm is triggered. The center receives about 1,000 calls a day and alarms are triggered about 12 times a day. Fewer than 10 alarm triggers a week require police to be called, according to Alamo.
For an extra fee, Alamo offers what is perhaps the most unique aspect of the business. In addition to calling the police, an urgent response team will go out to the property to keep an eye out for intruders. The Alamo agent will be at the property to meet with authorities if there has been a break-in.
The team will also check the property instead of the police if they suspect a false alarm. City ordinances in Stockton and Modesto levy fees as high as $250 to homeowners for police responding to false alarms.
“We stay one step ahead of the bad guys,” said Lobenberg, a former CHP officer.
Unfortunately, says Alamo, many of his customers are prompted to buy a security system only after they have been burglarized. Alamo is often called in to make an assessment of what security is needed to protect people who have already been victimized.
“We’ve seen some horrific crimes,” Alamo said.
The company uses noisy alarms inside the house and outside. The purpose for both noise-making alarms is to scare the intruder out of the house and alert neighbors that something is amiss.
“The main thing is to get the intruder out of there,” Alamo said.
Basic security systems from Alamo start at $150 for a motion detector system installation and monitoring costs about $1 a day. Alarm systems can also be installed for fire protection and to monitor elderly or indigent loved ones.
Alamo supplies all of the alarm systems for Lodi Unified Schools and Galt Unified. They have also installed alarms at Big League Dreams in Manteca and are busy installing a new alarm and camera system at the Stockton 99 Raceway.
“In these tough economic times we are actually growing,” Lobenberg said.